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Save ethnic rights, says AGP

Citizenship Amendment Bill will exclude ILP areas, covering Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland

By Pranjal Baruah in Guwahati

  • Published 12.12.19, 2:32 AM
  • Updated 12.12.19, 2:32 AM
Birendra Prasad Baishya, the AGP’s lone MP in the Rajya Sabha, on Wednesday.
Birendra Prasad Baishya, the AGP’s lone MP in the Rajya Sabha, on Wednesday. The Telegraph picture

In a last-ditch attempt, Birendra Prasad Baishya, the AGP’s lone MP in the Rajya Sabha, on Wednesday urged the Centre to ensure constitutional safeguards for Assam’s indigenous people before passing the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).

The Upper House discussed the bill on Wednesday amid spiralling protests across Assam.

Baishya’s reaction came at a time when his party, an ally of the ruling BJP in Assam, is facing sharp criticism from all quarters for “not opposing the bill and supporting its ally”.

“Today the people of Assam are frightened to lose their language and culture. I am not being emotional here but history says that the people of Assam have been fighting for their language rights since 1836,” he said.

“The AGP is not against any language or culture but since those to be declared Indian citizens via the bill are Bengali-speaking people, Assamese language feels threatened. Therefore, the Centre must declare Assamese as the state language immediately.”

Hailing the Assam Accord, Baishya criticised all previous state governments for “sitting over the Accord for over 30 years”.

“Though July 19, 1948, was set as the cut-off date for the rest of India to decide citizenship, Assam agreed to accept migrants till March 24, 1971. The state thus carried the burden of lakhs of illegal migrants for the rest of the country. But the state can’t afford to take the burden anymore. Therefore, the Centre must bring the inner-line permit (ILP) system in Assam before implementing the bill,” Baishya added.

The Centre has announced that the bill will exclude ILP areas, covering Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland. The areas in the Northeast covered by the Sixth Schedule, including Assam, will also be excluded from the bill’s purview.

The AGP lawmaker urged Union home minister Amit Shah to rethink about his decision to implement the bill and ensure constitutional safety for the state’s indigenous population.

“Implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord to ensure the constitutional rights of the indigenous people is a must before bringing the bill. I, therefore, request the Centre to respect the sentiments of the people of Assam,” he said.

Baishya, however, did not oppose the bill directly.

Earlier, the AGP wrote to Shah, urging him to take steps to ensure constitutional safeguard for the indigenous people before bringing the bill.

The party sought 100 per cent reservation of the indigenous people in government jobs, in the Assembly and in MP seats across the state. It also demanded ILP and Scheduled Tribe status for the six communities — Chutia, Muttock, Moran, Koch-Rajbongshi, Tai Ahom and the tea tribes.

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